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Comrade Limbaugh Hails the Genius of Socialized Medicine | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Comrade Limbaugh Hails the Genius of Socialized Medicine

Rush Limbaugh and I agree regarding the flawed nature of the health care reform proposal being advanced by President Obama and congressional Democrats such as Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.

The proposal is complicated and costly and structurally suspect. Limbaugh is passionately opposed to it because, as he has so frequently stated, he hopes that Obama fails. I lean toward accepting it because, despite the flaws, the reform would extend access to health care to as many as 30 million Americans who are currently without coverage.

I'm a tad more optimistic about the prospect for improving on an imperfect initiative.

Limbaugh is a tad more pessimistic.

But we are agreed about the kind of health-care system that works best.

On his syndicated radio show Monday, Limbaugh was asked by a caller: "If the health care bill passes, where would you go for health care yourself?"

Limbaugh responded: "I'll just tell you this, if this passes and it's five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented--I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica."

The next day, the supposedly-conservative host clarified his intentions.

Though he actually did say "I'll go to Costa Rica," Limbaugh announced that: "I did not say I'm going to Costa Rica."

Rather, he announced, "I'll go to Costa Rica to get major medical health care.

So it's not Costa Rica, per se, that Limbaugh is enthusiastic about--just the health care system.

What system does Costa Rica maintain? Socialized medicine. Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Harry Truman's Fair Deal programs, Costa Rican President Jose Figueres, a proud socialist, began six decades ago to develop a universal health care system that operates along single-payer lines, much like Medicare does in the U.S. Today, according to a study by the Global Health Council's Greg Connolly, "A history of commitment to health and social reform has yielded for Costa Rica the best health outcomes of any country in Latin America. These outcomes are the result of a well-developed publicly funded comprehensive health care system built on the principals of universal coverage and equity."

The Costa Rican government operates a network of well-regarded public hospitals and clinics and provides quality care to Costa Ricans at a significantly lower cost than does the private health care system in the U.S. And no wonder Limbaugh likes it: According to the World Health Organization, Costa Rica’s overall health-care system delivers better outcomes than does the U.S. system. Life expectancy in Costa Rica is higher than in the U.S., according to the most recent World Bank indicators==and that's especially true for men. On average, a fellow like Limbaugh lives 75.6 years in the U.S.; in Costa Rica, he gets to 76.5 years.

In fairness, the socialized medicine systems of France, Sweden, Norway and Japan deliver even better results, with overall life expectancy numbers pushing past 80. But I respect Limbaugh's desire to remain in the same hemisphere--and I understand that he thinks Canada (socialized medicine; life expectancy of 80.7 years) gets pretty cold in winter.

As for me, I'm still holding out for real reform in the U.S., via a distinctly American program that recognizes, as FDR did, that every citizen has "right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health." That's the system Harry Truman proposed in 1945, when he said: "Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection."

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